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Oral history interview with Kenneth Johnson, 1994.

Author: Kenneth R Johnson; Mark D Van Ells; Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
Edition/Format:   Archival material : Cassette recording : English
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
Kenneth Johnson, a Jackson, Michigan native, talks about his experience in the Army Air Force flying with the 4th Combat Cargo Group in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II. Johnson discusses his limited awareness of the war as a Madison (Wisconsin) high school student and his decision to enlist and enter the Army Air Force Cadet program. He speaks of the train ride to a reception center in Santa Anna  Read more...
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Genre/Form: Personal narratives, American
Named Person: Kenneth R Johnson
Document Type: Archival Material
All Authors / Contributors: Kenneth R Johnson; Mark D Van Ells; Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
OCLC Number: 316863599
Event notes: Interviewed by Mark D. Van Ells on October 3, 1994 in Wisconsin.
Description: Sound recording : 2 sound cassettes (ca. 95 min.); analog, 1 7/8 ips. Transcript : 32 p. Military papers : (1 folder) Master sound recording : 2 sound cassettes (ca. 95 min.); analog, 1 7/8 ips.

Abstract:

Kenneth Johnson, a Jackson, Michigan native, talks about his experience in the Army Air Force flying with the 4th Combat Cargo Group in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II. Johnson discusses his limited awareness of the war as a Madison (Wisconsin) high school student and his decision to enlist and enter the Army Air Force Cadet program. He speaks of the train ride to a reception center in Santa Anna (California), College Training Detachment in Spearfish (South Dakota), and pre, basic, and advanced flight school in Santa Anna (California). He describes betting other units about marching scores and funding a dance with the profits. Johnson touches upon classes, getting airsick during aerobatics lessons, and flying a Stearman, C-47s, and C-46s. He remembers flying across the Atlantic and being shaken up by a Tokyo Rose radio program that named his commanding officers and threatened an air attack that didn't happen. He mentions his first base in Sylhet (India) and flying three trips a day to supply the British 14th Army. Johnson gives examples of his cargo: Bailey bridges, food, ammunition, troops, mules, and gasoline. He reveals how the pilots would go on oxygen and fly high enough to put their British guides to sleep so they could pilfer beer from the cargo. Johnson mentions the British shooting an Indian officer for stealing supplies and the lack of women helping British and American troops get along. He explains they didn't see many Japanese aircraft and suffered infrequently from ground fire. He talks about the Gurkhas and the similarities between English-supported Maharajas and Chinese warlords. Johnson portrays flying over the Hump to Kunming (China), and after the war flying in gasoline and supplies for Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Nationalist Army, though he suspected the warlords sold the supplies instead of giving them to their troops. He describes the difficult terrain and pilots' having to bail out of planes due primarily to running out of gas and bad weather. He relates having his airplane's engines both temporarily fail and jettisoning their cargo. Johnson talks about how Chinese soldiers would be shot if they dented an airplane while unloading, so the Americans would do it themselves. He speaks of the goodwill encountered on his recent trip to China with other Hump pilots and describes his how close-knit his crew became. He talks about how the Japanese's following orders made their surrender easier. Johnson describes waiting a month in Karachi (India), playing golf and tennis and drinking, and then sailing home on rough November seas. He relates his homecoming, having a full Thanksgiving dinner on embarkation in New York, discharge at Camp McCoy (Wisconsin), meeting his infant daughter, and entering the reserves. He talks about his time in the Selective Service System including having the Madison office trashed during the Vietnam War, his commanding officer General Hershey, and the lottery system. He describes the prefab houses, frequently blown fuses, and thin walls in Badger Village (Wisconsin) and the relationships between GI Bill veteran students and the professors at University Wisconsin-Madison. Johnson discusses belonging to the Hump Pilots Association.

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